Napoli v Liverpool Preview - Reds begin the defence of their European crown
Venue – Stadio San Paolo, Naples
Referee – Felix Brych (GER)
Date & Time – Tuesday, September 17th 2019 @ 20:00
Current Odds – Napoli 2/1, Draw 5/2, Liverpool 13/10
It’s time for Liverpool to once again turn their attentions to European football as The Reds begin the defence of their Champions League title.
Napoli has been something of a regular opponent for Jurgen Klopp’s side in recent years, be it in pre-season friendlies or European competitive football.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side currently sits fifth in Italy’s Serie A after three games. They’re only defeat came at league champions Juventus when they were desperately unlucky to lose 4-3 after an injury-time own goal by Khalidou Koulibaly.
With a total of 16 goals coming in their opening three games, Napoli may be struggling for defensive solidity at the moment. However, they are scoring at the other end, too.
Ancelotti’s side is likely to adopt a more conservative approach to nullify Liverpool’s attacking threat on Tuesday night.
They’re not doing too bad, The Reds, are they? Five league wins to start the season – and now 14 consecutive victories in the Premier League since early March – means this Liverpool team is finally being recognised as the force it is.
Throw in a sixth European Cup triumph in the middle of that 14-game winning streak and you start to realise just what Jurgen Klopp has achieved on Merseyside.
Liverpool went behind to an excellent early goal from Jetro Willems of Newcastle on Saturday but, even then, the result never felt in doubt. Klopp’s ‘Mentality Monsters’ were ahead by half-time and extended that lead after the break.
Last season’s Champions League group stage saw Liverpool lose all three of their away fixtures (at PSG, Napoli and Red Star Belgrade).
Napoli Team News
Albanian full-back Elseid Hysaj and Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik are both doubtful for Tuesday’s game through injury. Other than that, Ancelotti has no other injury worries at the moment.
Ancelotti can switch his team between a 4-4-2 and a 4-4-1-1 shape, depending on their opponents. He will probably opt for 4-4-1-1 against Liverpool as he will be wary of the threat The Reds can pose on the counter-attack.
22-year-old Italian goalkeeper Alex Meret joined on a permanent deal from Udinese in the summer. He has started all three of Napoli’s Serie A games this season so expect to see him between the sticks against Liverpool.
Konstantinos Manolas moved to Naples from Roma before the start of the season. He should partner Kalidou Koulibaly in central defence. Koulibaly’s former defensive partner, Raul Albiol, returned to Spain in the summer, signing for Villarreal.
Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon are still at Napoli and still very capable of causing the Liverpool defence plenty of headaches. They also added Mexican striker Hirving Lozano’s name to the attack, bringing him in from PSV Eindhoven just before the transfer window closed.
Liverpool Team News
Liverpool are without Alisson and Nathaniel Clyne through injury. Alisson’s calf injury will keep him out until October at least. Clyne’s ACL issue means who won’t be back in full training until around February.
Naby Keita and Divock Origi are both doubtful for this game, too. Keita is still recovering from a muscle injury he picked up when training in Turkey ahead of Liverpool’s UEFA Super Cup victory over Chelsea. Origi suffered an ankle injury in the early stages of the 3-1 win over Newcastle on Saturday.
Klopp may have one eye already on Liverpool’s trip to Chelsea on Sunday in the Premier League but with almost five days between the games, he may still opt for a ‘full strength’ lineup in Italy.
Adrian will continue in goals while Jordan Henderson should returning to the starting eleven alongside Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum in midfield.
Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané will lead the line in attack.
Napoli XI (4-4-2) – Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Callejon, Zielinski, Allan, Insigne; Lozano, Mertens
Liverpool XI (4-3-3) – Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mané
When they last met
Napoli won 1-0 thanks to Lorenzo Insigne’s late goal at the Stadio San Paolo last season. Liverpool reversed the scoreline when the sides met in the final group game at Anfield. Mohamed Salah scored the goal which, along with some heroics from Alisson, carried The Reds to the knockout stages and then on their way to Champions League title number six.
Napoli 1 – 1 Liverpool
It’s another tough Italian trip that’s in store for Liverpool. The Reds might go one better than last season and snatch a draw. Whatever happens, it won’t be an easy night for Klopp’s men. To come away with a point and no injuries would be a success when looking at the bigger picture of the challenges ahead.